St Polycarpe is a delightful small settlement built around a Benedictine Abbey. The large fortified church is the only part to have survived the Revolution and is now the parish church, surrounded by a graveyard with huge family vaults.
Église de Notre-Dame is a massive fortified church with a very tall nave and east apse. There is a low square tower at the west end with a tiled witches hat roof and a series of decorative tiles under the roof. There are round topped windows in the apse with blank arcading above. The nave also has round topped windows plus a row of tiny round windows just below the pantiles roof. There are a lot of empty holes on the external walls of the nave and tower which were used for staging when the church was built.
To the south is a disused building proclaiming ‘private’ which may have been part of the abbey.
Entry is through the west door. Inside the doorway is a porch and a new spiral staircase gives access to the tower.
Steps lead down into a delightful Romanesque building. There is a simple nave with plain glass windows. Across the west end is a balcony. On the north side is a massive round stone font. On the right is a red marble piscina.
On the south wall is a blue and gilt reredos. This has a blue base with inset panels painted to resemble marble. Blue and gilt pillars frame a picture of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Above are cherub heads.
The transepts are small with round arches. They have small altars That in the south transept has scrolls painted on the base and a statue of the Virgin and Christ Child above. That in the north transept has a cross on the base and the Virgin with the Christ child with cherub heads. On the left hand side is a large oil painting of the Annunciation and one of the Nativity on the right. On the north wall is a modern icon of St Polycarpe.
Wooden steps lead up to the high altar. Again the wooden base is painted to resemble red and white marble. In the centre is a glass panel. This protects a 14thC gold and silver reliquary head of St Polycarpe and a silver reliquary head of St Benoit. Between them is a 14thC monstrance reliquary. Two metal angels are holding a glass cylinder which has metal ends set with semi-precious stones. At the back is what is described as ‘Tissu avant envelopé des reliquers’ from the 13thC.
Above the altar is a small retable with a gilt host box with a standing figure of the crucified Christ. with angels and pillars on either side. On either side of these are painted carvings of a bishop. Above is a small pedicel with a crucifix.
Above are three modern stained glass windows, with St Polycarpe in the centre with two other saints. I couldn’t make out the writing as it is designed to be read from the outside of the church…
There are the remains of 14thC frescoes on the five sided apse behind and round the north window arch. There are more frescoes on the nave ceiling, part of the north wall and the transept ceiling, predominantly in shades of blues and reds. The transept ceiling has a circular, abstract design. We could make out the figures of angels in the nave but it was difficult to make out details on the other frescoes as there was so little left.
It is a delightful church and we enjoyed our visit.